It’s a scenario being played out all over Europe. Teams losing coaches and players with no one knowing for how long.
Sweden’s Örebro Black Knights along with their players and coaches are in the same boat. This past week, the club finally had to make a decision about head coach Timothy Speckman after the Swedish season was pushed ahead to August 15 at the earliest.
They couldn’t afford to keep Speckman with the season now five months away. And Speckman himself also had to make a fast decision. He learned that Germany – he lives in Travemünde in northern Germany with this wife, Katharina, in the offseason – was adding on a 14-day quarantine to all residents returning to the country as of April 10.
Earlier this week, Speckman was sitting in Örebro in south central Sweden and the club had just informed him about the season was now being pushed back.
“Yeah, we had to decide pretty fast, partly because of Germany announcing that as of 10th April anyone returning from anywhere outside Germany would have a mandatory 14 day quarantine. It made sense to just do it now considering the current situation and the team’s finances in mind as well.”
For the 39-year-old Speckman, who comes from a coaching family – father Mark Speckman is currently the running backs and assistant head coach at UC Davis – the situation was bizarre, living in limbo like the rest of the sports world.
The Redwood City, California native had just changed countries for the first time since arriving in Germany in 2012. Since then he has coached with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, Hamburg Huskies and Lübeck Seals. The job with Orebro was a chance to see what football is like in other countries.
“I wanted a new experience. I was staying in the north of Germany for personal reasons but I was curious about other countries and had developed a friendship with Black Knights linebacker Filip Jonsson. We had met at a camp in Stockholm a couple of years ago. So when I heard they were looking for a head coach, I called him up. The season is shorter and would still allow me to coach the second half of the year with Kiel.”
According to Micael Jonsson, Sports Director for the Black Knights elite teams, the club was very happy with Speckman:
“We want to have him back if we play a fall season. He has been a great coach and a great guy to deal with too. The problem was that for him to be able to be laid off and be entitled to the benefits, he would need to have been employed for three months. We don’t have the luxury of being able to pay for him and the apartment for another five months at least without revenues.”
Speckman and the Black Knights have been holding padded practices right up until 10 days or so ago under Sweden’s more relaxed approach to the coronavirus pandemic. So even with shifting to non-contact practices in the past week, according to Speckman, the team would have been ready to play in a couple of weeks if need be.
Back home in Germany, Speckman admits there is a difference in the atmosphere:
“The first sign that I had gone from the most relaxed nation was arriving at the ferry terminal in Germany at midnight. There were at least 10 police officers checking everyone, asking questions about your health and the reasons for being in Sweden and coming to Germany. They were nice about it but it was still a culture shock.”
Now, he can just sit and wait, along with the rest of the world, to see what the future holds.